In 2013-14 the Providence Friars won the Big East tournament, resulting in the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance in a decade. Now the question for head coach Ed Cooley and his program is whether or not they’ll be able to build on that momentum, and with seniors Kadeem Batts and Bryce Cotton out of eligibility there are two important holes to fill. Providence got a head start of sorts with their summer trip to Italy, going undefeated in three games and doing so in comfortable fashion.
Among the key returnees for Providence are seniors LaDontae Henton and Carson Desrosiers, and juniors Tyler Harris and Kris Dunn. Friday afternoon the school released its finalized non-conference schedule, and there’s one game that clearly stands out.
Providence will visit Kentucky on November 30, playing against the Wildcats for the second consecutive season. Kentucky won last season’s meeting 79-65 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and this season’s meeting won’t include the leading scorers from that contest. Cotton led all scorers with 23 points and James Young, who scored 18 to lead the victorious Wildcats, jumped to the NBA following his freshman year.
Kentucky’s combination of returnees and newcomers has made them the early favorite to win the national title in the eyes of many, and while this game represents a significant challenge for Providence it’s also an opportunity. The Friars’ schedule has just three games against teams that reached the NCAA tournament last year, beginning with their season opener against America East tournament champion Albany on November 15.
Providence will also play UMass, which earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, with that game scheduled for December 20. Providence will also participate in the Hall of Fame Tipoff on November 22 and 23, with the Friars facing Florida State on the 22nd and Notre Dame on the 23rd. Providence’s two other games against ACC opponents will be played in December, with the Friars taking on Boston College (December 5 in Chestnut Hill) and Miami (December 22 in Brooklyn).
The task of replacing Batts and Cotton won’t be easy, but given the players they have coming back and talented newcomers such as forwards Ben Bentil and Jalen Lindsey, and center Paschal Chukwu the Friars are capable of earning a second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. In order to do so they’ll need to take care of business ahead of Big East play, and while there are some challenges that portion of the slate looks to be manageable.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.
But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.
It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:
After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”: